Se son rose…, week 4 – Early MVP candidates, Saving Private Wang Zhelin, imports’ 4th-quarter usage and Guo Ailun, who isn’t as f***ed as we thought.

Brief (hopefully) edition of “Se son rose…”, where I’m gonna elaborate on whatever caught my attention every week while watching some old good Chinese ball. Today I have to go with MVP talks first, because apparently I’m the only one thinking it’s not too early. Hey, we’ve seen almost a third of the whole regular season already, time to dig up some predictions!
But there’s more to add: Wang Zhelin playing for a horrible team, how 4th quarter rules have changed the perception of how you should pick your two imports and the resurgence of Guo Ailun.

Let’s get started:

1 – MVP, MVP, MVP!

Last season’s MVP, Lester Hudson, is playing for the top team in the league (at least that’s what the standings indicate) and notably enough his stats are a bit higher than last season. In itself, that isn’t a major argument to consolidate his status, since his MVP-winning campaign didn’t even see him crack the top ten in scoring; winning will be awarded this kind of trophies, and Hudson’s Xinjiang was just behind Guangdong last year (the Southern Tigers, of course, didn’t have a suitable candidate as Yi wasn’t even top 20 in scoring, nor were they interested in having one). Nowadays, Hudson is in Liaoning, where the team’s unbeaten and looks to surprise everybody by possibly making a run at the top seed. This’d look like a dream scenario for every MVP-wannabe, especially this wannabe being more of an already-been, but there’s a tough competitor to keep track of, and his name is Andray Blatche.
Just as we were marveling at Zhou Qi’s promising defensive attributes Blatche was slowly finding his feet in a team where he can definitely feel at home both on and off the court – if only Urumqi was an entirely different place – and ultimately took off: today’s performance in a 84-69 won vs Bayi has been a 31 pts-25 rbs that looks unreal by itself and even more stunning in such a low-scoring affair.
Against Bayi he came while riding a streak of 39, 45 and 43 points, the latter vs Guangdong.
He plays for title contenders (and possibly favorite?) Xinjiang, is first in defensive rebounds per game with 11,1 and second in overall rebounds per game with 14,6; he’s also 4th in steals per game at 6’11” with 2,5 and averages 4,5 assists per game.
Let’s be frank: given his numbers and the fact that his team is in contention it shouldn’t even be close.
But Hudson is a true winner, and his 30-6,6-6,8 averages (with 2,8 steals per game) are also amazing. Just not Blatche-like amazing.

2 – Saving Private Wang

I was tempted, if we are to speak in all honesty, to write just Wang because Wang Zhizhi needs even more help, now that he’s been forced out of retirement to save Bayi’s ship or sink while trying.
But let’s just keep it easy and address the curious case of Wang Zhelin, who shouldn’t be here.
Now, teams sometimes happen to suck. Big time, at that. And sometimes these franchises don’t lack superstar talent; it’s just the way it is and it works like that in the U.S. as well (am I right, Kobe?), no need to feel belittled by it. If you wanna establish yourself as a growing force of a young player, now, that’s a totally different story, though, and Wang needs to go. Fujian’s a mess: Prada has been relieved of his coaching duties (he’ll still be a part of the team, but not as a coach), both starting imports have already left one way or another and a team that started with a blooming star, an NBA-proven beast of an import in Al Harrington and a next-boom-in-the-league hopeful in Corey Fisher now has no Fisher, no Harrington and a demotivated star player followed by a cast of John Lucas III, D.J. White and some locals whose percentages may suggest that, I don’t know, maybe they just squint.
Wang has kept his numbers up and even improved on his percentages, but such a young kid might just drop it in the second half of the season – something to be understood but not condoned.
That, and the fact that I already spent some word about how good it’d be for him to play for a winning team where he can show his quality without being the first offensive option – he’ll rarely be if he makes it to the NBA, at least initially – and learn about what is like to be part of a winning culture. Excellence is a habit, after all, and he’d better get used to it sooner than later.

3 – Clutch time, clutch players.

At first I noticed a tendency to alternate foreign imports in the last quarter depending on the situation and the looks wanted on the offensive end. Teams like Shandong would put Raduljica in to look for post-ups and then get Pooh in for a more perimeter-oriented approach. Now it looks like teams are finally settling (may I remind you that it’s this rule’s first year?) for one import to stay the whole quarter.
This is key, because it means that now there will be some kind of…how can I describe it? Hierarchy?
An import is going to spend more (or at least more decisive) minutes on the floor than his fellow foreigner, thus making his contributions more important for his team’s fate and capable of bending lineup usages. That comes at the advantage of teams whose imports’ roles are already defined by either résumés or length of term with the team in question: Liaoning has in Hudson an MVP and all-time CBA great, Dongguan has Brown who is a fan and league favorite, Tianjin has Douby, and that’s just saying enough, Shanghai has Beasley and those are just some examples. The same teams mentioned above have “secondary” imports in Deon Thompson, Ike Diogu, Shelden Williams and Bernard James. None of them is meant to be a primary scorer, and probably all of them will be content to watch their partners-in-crime slay opposing guards and get to the rack or sink a long ball.

4 – Ailun just Guon’t stop (…ok, that was terrible. I’m sorry).

I already looked for help when Li Gen, who is really good, had little playing time in some Beijing games, and I wound up being wrong – not surprisingly – as Beijing had him on the floor consistenly when the game actually meant something. Since not many games have really been grit-and-grind affairs for the Ducks, sometimes Li Gen just sat. Guo Ailun had missed a large chunk of 2013/2014 and was somehow not a sure thing, despite starting from game 1 this season. He has been as good as advertised: 11,5 ppg aren’t a huge number, but his 5,6 x 1,0 assist to turnover ratio on a nightly basis look really good. With Hudson being a scorer as much as a facilitator, his contributions have been great and we all look forward to a great season from him. Today’s contest saw Liaoning squaring off against the Southern Tigers themselves, who were coming off a brutal loss to Xinjiang which also honored me with the personal highlight of the season (a mind-blowing block by Zhou Qi on a Daniels’ easy layup after a great and totally legal shoulder push that saw the lanky 18-year-old back off by at least half a meter and then still block the hell out of that weak stuff, a block so good and unreal that the refs called goaltending because it just couldn’t be real), and for three quarters Guo and Hudson were the only guys in a blue uniform that seemed aware that a game was taking place. Then the coach opted to get Han (who had been terrible by that moment) involved with post-up isolations and that apparently got everybody going to the point that despite playing horrible basketball for three quarters Liaoning still won.

See you on Sunday for our power rankings!

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